During the last decade, significant changes in Water Resources and Agriculture policy areas pushed decision makers to develop integrated strategies and propose measures to improve both the quality of life in rural areas and the ecological status of the environment. EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) considers compliance with current environmental legislations as a baseline for good practice and a condition for granting payments to farmers. Rural development and agricultural practices are among the environmental parameters that greatly affected the state of surface and groundwater resources. A main objective of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the good ecological status of all European water bodies by 2015.
Despite the currently available guidance, practice has shown that the design and actual implementation of specific priority measures to support both rural development and healthy ecosystems is not an easy task. Several challenges usually exist behind failed procedures, having their roots in technical or conceptual shortcomings, including:
- fragmented (and often duplicated) modeling studies to satisfy temporary and short-sighted causes
- lack of spatial and temporal data needed for water resources modeling
- deficiency of monitoring networks and obsolete monitoring practices
- detached communication of incentives from the relevant policy objectives and the overall vision they aim to serve
- inability to incorporate the different priorities of all stakeholders in the evaluation of recommended plans
The Pinios river basin is the single most important agricultural producer in Greece, with fertile soils but a very dry climate during summer. Agriculture is by far the main water consumer (95%) with irrigated land covering more than half of the area. Cotton is the main crop cultivated in Pinios, with high water demands (> 600 mm water per growth cycle). This results in low river flow (negligible in the summer), low groundwater water tables, the drying up of lakes and significant water quality degradation (nutrients-pesticides). The increased groundwater pumping has drastically decreased groundwater levels making water more expensive to obtain (deep pumping). It is abstracted mostly from groundwater sources with few notable exceptions. Unfortunately a significant percent of abstractions is believed to be illegal and existing irrigation practices have low efficiency (incl. high runoff and percolation water losses and canal leakage).